Six Nations 2015: Good time for Scotland to play the French – Cotter

Dark Blues head coach believes France will be fired up for the opening match in Paris after a difficult year

Vern Cotter believes it is a good time to play France as he prepares his Scotland squad for their Six Nations opener in Paris.

Philippe Saint-Andre’s side have not won the Six Nations since 2010 and finished fourth last year, despite being in contention for the title on the final day before going down 22-20 in Paris, which handed the title to Ireland, their opponents that day.

It’s a good time to play the French to be honest. They’re going to be very fired up and one thing we can predict is a very physical game against them.

Vern Cotter

They followed that up with a disappointing 3-0 series defeat to Australia on their summer tour, but there were signs of improvement in November as they ran in five tries in a 40-15 win over Fiji in Marseille with seven players making their senior debut, including 21-year-old Racing Metro Teddy Thomas, who bagged a hat-trick.

A week later, France gained some revenge with a 29-26 win over the Wallabies in Paris to reclaim the Trophee des Bicentenaires with Clermont Auvergne outside-half Camille Lopez kicking 16 points and Thomas again finding his way over the tryline.

Their progress was undone in their final game as Argentina stunned Les Bleus 18-13 at the Stade de France as Toulon outside-half Nicolas Sánchez landed three drop-goals and two penalties, with Racing’s Juan Martín Hernández also landing a penalty.

“It’s going to be tough,” Cotter said.

“The last time they played they lost, so they’ll be looking to present another image of themselves at the start of the Six Nations.

“It’s a good time to play the French to be honest.

“They’re going to be very fired up and one thing we can predict is a very physical game against them.

“I think they’ll move forward and they’ll be tough.”

The match also represents Cotter’s first foray into the Six Nations and contest with European opposition having led Scotland to five wins from his first seven matches in charge of the Dark Blues since taking the reins last summer.

While three of those results came against the USA, Canada and Tonga — countries Scotland fans expect them to defeat — their standout performances came at BT Murrayfield in the autumn in their win over Argentina and narrow defeat to New Zealand, after they pushed the All Blacks for 80 minutes.

Coupled with a competitive Glasgow Warriors in the Guinness PRO12 and Edinburgh Rugby’s form to reach the last eight of the European Rugby Challenge Cup, there is a buzz about Scottish rugby and more pressure on Cotter and his players to deliver when it matters: in the Six Nations.

We’re playing the best teams in the world…I know they’re ready for it and looking forward. That brings a lot of excitement to it.

Vern Cotter

But Scotland have a dismal record against the French, losing their last eight Test matches, and blew a 14-9 half-time lead in Edinburgh last year as Yoann Huget intercepted an ambitious Duncan Weir pass and raced away to put France ahead.

Weir hit back with a penalty to make it 17-16, but a last-gasp penalty from replacement scrum-half Jean-Marc Doussain won it 19-17.

Scotland’s last win over Les Bleus on French soil came on the final weekend of the 1999 campaign as superb 36-22 victory at the Stade de France paved the way for them to claim the final iteration of the Five Nations Championship if Wales could defeat England at Wembley.

Against the odds, a superb last-gasp try from side-stepping maestro Scott Gibbs and a Neil Jenkins conversion earned Wales a dramatic 32-31 win and handed the title to Jim Telfer’s Dark Blues.

It may be early days in the Cotter era, but the Kiwi believes that there is a growing desire to be successful in the 32-man squad he has assembled and, while they expect to be tested, their aim is to take their inspiring performances from the viagogo Autumn Tests into the Six Nations.

“I think there’s a real desire within the group to be competitive and play well, develop things we’ve done well in the autumn, and repeat them,” he added.

“We’re playing the best teams in the world. We look at Ireland, Wales, France and England – they’ll really test us.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing how our guys play under pressure.

“I know they’re ready for it and looking forward. That brings a lot of excitement to it.”

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